A semi-circular gravel driveway, a well-established weeping willow tree, a majestic magnolia, a manicured yard. A beautifully maintained southern house with a few rocking chairs and dog leashes hanging from hooks on the screened in wrap-around porch. Definitely an idyllic setting on an 85 degree sunny afternoon. She says, “Come on in,” while holding the original screen door open with her left hand and holding onto her walker with her right one. As I enter through the side door, I hear her say, “Hi Karen! How are you? Come on in and have a seat in here.” That welcoming voice, a voice of true southern hospitality, came from our very own icon of Milton, Jean Scott. I followed her into the sitting room; greeted her dog, Lily; plugged in my recorder, and then sat down in a socially-distanced seat to begin the interview.
In the middle of the interview, though, Jean told me an interesting story about her husband, John, who was born in this house. She told me that when he was about two years old, he contracted the 2nd Year Disease (something similar to dysentery). Henrietta Jeffries, the locally in-demand mid-wife at the time, told his parents that she could help cure him of that disease. And, she set out to do just that. “Aunt Henrietta,” as she was lovingly called, packed her bag and moved in. For a period of four months, she lived with the Scott family, feeding young John a diet of mostly sweet potatoes and crispy fatback meat. This restricted diet seemed to do the trick. John, the toddler, got better. He grew up and went on to live a full life. Meeting Jean, marrying her in 1945 when she was 20 years old, and raised four children in the house of his birth…the house in which Jean still lives.
Our conversation easily and seamlessly meandered between discussing how her father moved the family a few times between Colorado, where Jean was born, and Milton (her father had “itchy feet”), to remembering Milton as an idyllic place to grow up where she and her friends would play hop-scotch and jack rocks on the historic sidewalks to being a mail clerk for 10 years and then Post Master of the Milton Post Office for another 10 years.
But when our interview began, the first question I asked her was, “How did you get started with your writing career?” Jean replied, “I don’t have any background for writing. Other than school reports and papers that were required and that kind of thing. No creative writing obviously.” But, “in 2006, the editor of the Caswell Messenger called me and asked me to write a story about Milton. I really think she was expecting it to be one of those articles about the social events that were happening in Milton at the time.” The editor wanted Scott to write about who was hosting the local bridge club and who was travelling where and who was hosting visitors from out of town...basically to write about the local town gossip. “You know, things like that use to be in the Caswell Messenger. I don’t have a writing style, but writing about things like that was not it. I told her (the editor) I would write up something to see how she liked it. And, the rest is history.” Scott went on to say that “my writing method has always been to sit down at the computer and see what comes. I don’t make notes. I just sit down and think about what I’m going to write today.” Jean also used her mother’s memories (journal) in which to draw information and inspiration. She told me that over the years, there’s been a lot of repetition in her articles, but was proud to say that one of her readers said, “I feel like you are talking to me.” And that was Jean’s goal; to write as if she were talking directly to each person who reads her column. When asked why are you choosing now to cease writing Milton Memories, Scott said that she’s been doing it for a long time, and that it’s time for someone else to take over and share their stories.
Back in 2014, a book of her writings entitled, MILTON MEMORIES by Jean Bradsher Scott, was released. It’s a compilation of some of her favorite memories of her beloved town. It’s available for sale at all three museums in Caswell County: The Thomas Day House/Union Tavern and the Renaissance Museum, both in Milton, and the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville.
At the end of our hour long conversation, the final question I asked Jean was, “What is your most prized possession?” She immediately said that she didn’t have a most prized possession. She said that “If I could, I would take my arms, wrap it around the entire town of Milton and give it a great big hug. I just love Milton that much.”
So, as I prepared to leave, I graciously thanked her for her time, gathered my belongings, said goodbye to the dog and was going to exit from a different door from which I entered. Jean quickly said to me, “Unless you are superstitious, I wouldn’t go out of that door.” I didn’t question her about it. I simply backed up, walked the few extra steps to the door from which I entered and then exited her home. The superstition about exiting through the doorway from which one enters is now one of my Milton Memories that I (hopefully) will have the pleasure of telling someone in my golden years.